Tuesday, April 15, 2008

O Appalachian Spring!

Thank you Jim for your post on Jurisdynamics in celebration of our milestones.

In the summer of 1942, Aaron Copland agreed to write a score for a dance program for choreographer Martha Graham in exchange for $500. Their collaboration, the modern ballet Appalachian Spring, is no accident.

Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn in 1900. Copland's family was unmusical. He was an outsider from birth. During his life, technology made commercial recording of music possible. Copland thought that classical music should be "for the people" and by radio and records one composer could reach them all. Copland's music broke out of the classical concert hall and into the places where the people lived.

Martha Graham was born in 1894 in Allegheny County, Pa. Graham rejected the preoccupation of classical ballet with line, flow and grace. She saw and felt movement as tension and release, passion and peace -- raw, ugly and real. She shattered entrenched dance stereotypes and created in its place American Modern Dance.

Here is a longer excerpt from Hart Crane's poem, The Dance

There was a bed of leaves, and broken play
There was a veil upon you, Pocahontas, bride—
O Princess whose brown lap was virgin May;
And bridal flanks and eyes hid tawny pride.

I left the village for dogwood. By the canoe
Tugging below the mill-race, I could see
Your hair’s keen crescent running, and the blue
First moth of evening take wing stealthily.

What laughing chains the water wove and threw.
I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; I
Drifted how many hours I never knew,
But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—

And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,
Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass—
Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.
I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass . . .

I took the portage climb, then chose
A further valley-shed; I could not stop.
Feet nozzled wat’ry webs of upper flows;
One white veil gusted from the very top.

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!—wisped of azure wands,

Jim, the sound of Copland's Appalachian Spring, and the sight of Graham's dancers raising their bodies not by magic but by muscle and soaring will, is a simple gift from our Creator. They gained the ledge and showed us what in our hearts we already knew-- northward reaches in that violet wedge.

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